The residential housing market has carried the burden for the majority of the construction industry during the recession, as public projects have struggled to keep pace. In many cases, however, it hasn't been for a lack of need. Take, for example, public school construction. Studies conducted by the National Education Association have revealed billions of dollars are needed for school modernization, and a recent report titled “The 2003 - 2004 U.S. Markets Construction Update” from FMI, a Raleigh, N.C.-based market analysis group, finds that enrollment in U.S. schools will peak in the next two years, potentially setting the stage for a glut of electrical work (Table below). As with all public projects, however, those predictions hinge upon the approval of local budgets.

The correctional facility market could also prove to be a plentiful source of public construction projects in the near future, given the right amount of support from federal and local government. With 3.1% of the U.S. population incarcerated and the prison system at large in dire need of updates and expansion, FMI's report predicts substantial increases in new construction and renovations through 2007 (Table below). Nearly $8 billion a year could be budgeted at the state and federal level in addition to some new construction in the private corrections facility sector. Again, these predictions come with a caveat: The already high price of housing inmates — the report cites estimates that place the cost anywhere from $15,000 to $66,000 per inmate per year — may give state and federal governments pause when budgeting for new construction.